Darien EMS-Post 53 EMT Inspires new state tailgating law

Darien EMS-Post 53 EMT inspires new state tailgating law

Last Updated on Friday, June 17, 2011 11:59 AM Written by Susan Shultz
Friday, June 17, 2011 01:00 PM

A concern that grew in the mind of Darien EMS-Post 53 Emergency Medical Technician Emily Close will now become a law on July 1 after some assistance from State Rep. Terrie Wood.

Emily, who just finished her junior year at Darien High School, approached Wood after becoming concerned with cars tailgating ambulances in emergency mode to tag onto the ambulance's speed.

 She said the idea came to her when she and other EMTs responded to an accident on I-95, and the team was transporting a critically injured patient to the hospital with lights and sirens on.

"During the transport I noticed, as I had several times, that cars were tailing the back of the ambulance hoping to use our speed to their advantage, it was then that I realized how much of a danger this was not only to the patient but to my crew, and the drivers within a 100 foot radius of the ambulance," Emily told The Darien Times.

The danger, Emily said, was not only a risk of accidents, but the risk the four oxygen tanks on the ambulance presented. "I decided that day that my care for patients as well as the care other members of Post 53 provide should not be compromised by other drivers on the road," she said.

At that point, Emily said she decided to do something about it instead of just complaining. She contacted Wood to see if there was a law in place about a safe distance to be kept behind ambulances and if not, how one could be put in place.

Wood told The Darien Times she felt helping Emily get the law put in place was one of her "proudest accomplishments." "I helped a young woman and showed her how democracy can work," Wood said.

She said she found there was a law in place for keeping a distance behind fire trucks, but none for ambulances.

Wood put the bill forward that would require traffic to stay 250 feet behind on ambulance, and on Feb. 8, there was a public hearing before the state's Transportation Committee. Emily testified, as did other EMTs from around the state.

Wood said the committee was impressed with Emily's statement and all her answers to the questions put forward to her. "You could see their jaws start to drop," she said.

The bill, HB 6148, passed after being folded into a general Department of Transportation bill on June 3 and 4, first the house and then the senate. "Governor Dan Malloy will sign it on July 1," she said.

Wood said it is a good law, and not only will it cost nothing, it could be a revenue stream.

Emily said she was fortunate to have Wood to help her put her idea into effect. "Mrs. Wood who provided me with so much support and really did everything in her power to push this bill along," she said.

Wood said Emily's dedication really helped accomplish getting the law put in place.